Last week, the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC) announced student publication budgets for the 2009 spring semester. Several new publications were allotted funds, while most existing publications faced slight budget cuts.
According to the overall SPARC budget, of publications that received funding for the fall semester, only Press and KDIC’s budgets remained the same while the S&B’s increased, and the rest decreased. However, five new publications were added under SPARC for the spring semester.
This semester’s proposed budget totaled around $125,000, compared to $122,504.10 in the fall, with $89,517.32 and $74.865.32 being allotted in each semester, respectively.
“We go through a fairly painful budget process each semester,” said SPARC Treasurer Matt Zmudka ’11. “Publications are always requesting more money than we actually have to give out.”
SPARC receives one-third of the Student Activity Fund, with the other two-thirds going to SGA. This amounts to about $88,000 per semester, or about $58.33 per student.
“If you were looking at that [number] broadly, you could consider that as your subscription costs for 12 S&Bs, four B&Ss, two Sequences, so on and so forth. Most people just see ‘free’ and don’t realize it’s coming out of their Student Activity Fee,” Zmudka said.
According to Zmudka, when determining the budget, SPARC usually tries to limit expansion rather than eliminate new projects.
“In general, the Committee’s line has been if a publication wants to fill a niche that isn’t currently being served, that is going to be a greater priority than expansion of a current program,” Zmudka said.
Christine McCormick ’09, SPARC Chair, said it is easier to budget for the smaller publications that come out once a semester because they do not ask for much funding. Zmudka said these more specialized, niche publications, such as the Grinnell Economist, usually cost $1500 to $2000 per semester.
“We had one publication that the only thing they wanted was the cost to print,” McCormick said. “Something like that is really just hard to cut, because it’s a really good project we want to fund and if we cut anything from them, we’ve cut their entire project.”
Ross Preston ’10, editor-in-chief of the B&S, said his budget was cut by an insignificant amount and should not affect the publication’s overall quality.
“The B&S has a pretty small budget compared to other publications. All we need is money for salaries and printing cost,” Preston said.
PRESS, which publishes student works in book form, asked for $23,000 this semester—up from $20,000 last semester—but only received $18,200. PRESS co-editor-in-chief Parvoneh Shirgir ’09 said they will have to cut back on some things, such as not producing a hard-cover publication, but they will still be able to produce most of what they wanted.
“SPARC was pretty generous with us, they gave us enough money to continue producing quality student projects,” Shirgir said.
According to Zmudka, the number of publications has increased dramatically in recent years—from eight in 2003 to 16 this semester—an increase he attributed mostly to technological advancements.
“I think a lot of the greater interest in publications has to do with the technology in that it’s so much easier to create something and send it to a printer,” Zmudka said. “Before, you had to set type.”
Students said that they appreciate the increase in publications, but still wanted funding to be regulated by SPARC boards and carefully split
“I think focusing on having a few really good [publications] would probably be in everyone’s best interest, but at the same time it’s nice to have a wide variety depending on what you like to read,” Mairead O’Grady ’10 said. “As long as the quality isn’t affected by the quantity.”
To solve the ongoing funding problem, Zmudka and McCormick had several suggestions. Besides raising the student activities fee, Zmudka said some larger publications could reduce day-to-day spending and the formation of a SPARC advertising agent could increase revenue across publications.
“The S&B does a good job [with ads], and some could be integrated into [publications such as] the Cyclone or the Economist,” Zmudka said. “The idea is creating one person who has contacts and knows the procedure to be a clearinghouse.”
In addition, SPARC is looking for ways to increase alumni donations in order to create an endowment similar to the ones SGA and The Debating Union have. The endowment would provide consistent revenue through interest. However, Zmudka said “it would be a long time before any SPARC endowment could be started.”
—Additional reporting by Harley Chang